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redefining normal
what was, is, and shall ever be
by robert a. melos

After a lengthy series of medical problems my mother died on January 28th. I thought I was handling things pretty well until the other morning when I was laying in bed trying to sleep, thinking that I’ll be fine if I can just get through all the emotional pain until things get back to normal. Normal. That’s when I realized I had to redefine normal.

Normal for me for the past three years had been the care and feeding of my mother. I stopped working, which in real estate isn’t a big deal because, well, it’s real estate. In New Jersey just about everyone has a real estate license even if they don’t use it, and those who don’t have a license think they know more than those who do. So while I wasn’t working I was getting up every couple of hours, getting no sleep and making sure my mother was comfortable and wanted for nothing. There were days when I got all of two hours sleep. I honestly don’t know how people can function without sleep.

The rest of my time was spent doing one or two loads of laundry per day, cooking, trying to come up with some food mom would eat, then running to the grocery store, or Wendy’s because she decided not to eat anything I cooked, and would only eat a bite or two of a Wendy’s burger. It was a rough time and it consumed me. That’s all over.

The viewing was sort of good. I mean, as far as those things go it was okay; comforting in some ways. The funeral director did a great job with the make-up making mom look the way she did before all the medical problems that ravaged her physically and mentally. She looked to be at peace after being on a cocktail of medications that would probably have killed Keith Richards but didn’t seem to do anything for mom aside from messing up her mind for a time.

The funeral was held in a driving rain, and I went home after a nice luncheon of tilapia and cried. I figured I was okay. I went on, paid the bills, started all the after death things that needed to be done; the will, bank accounts, insurances, all the usual stuff. I was fine, but nothing was normal. I kept thinking it was, but the reality of it is, as an only child with no one to lean on or guide me, I was left to my own devices. Unfortunately after more than three years of being consumed by someone else’s life, I had no devices.

I decided to get back to work since work is the best way to get through anything. Everything would be fine, except for the fact real estate is in a downward spiral that makes kamikaze dives look like loop de loops. I also rejoined a health club, L. A. Fitness. I read on the web that exercise is a great way to work through grief. They don’t have a steam room, but I can live without one. I workout about five times a week; breaking up the half hour of intense physical movement per day with one weekend day and weekday off. I thought I was doing okay.

So normal is already starting to be redefined without my realizing it. I still can’t walk through the house past mom’s bedroom without picturing her dead. She didn’t die at home. The last four months she was in a nursing home, but it was still hard. Some people advised me to sell the house immediately, others have told me not to do anything major for the first year. I’m determined to keep the house for at least a year if not longer. Financially that might not be feasible considering the state of the economy and the sub-prime loan debacle and my own adjustable rate mortgage, but it is just another step on the road to normal. Dealing with all that life is throwing at me all at once has become the norm.

The only thing that is constant in life is change, and the best lesson is to embrace change making it the norm. Maybe that’s the way for me to go. The best way of redefining normal is to go with the flow and eventually normal will redefine itself.


Robert is the author of the novels Cool Mint Blue, Melba Ridge, and the recently released The Adventures of Homosexual Man and Lesbian Lad; and the creator of the on-line comix Impure Thoughts found at his web site Inside R.A. Melos, as well as having been an on-line staff writer for QBliss where he had a monthly humor column, Maybe A Yip, Maybe A Yap. In his non-writing time, when he's not studying the metaphysical or creating a tarot deck, he sells real estate in Middlesex County New Jersey, hangs out with his dog Zeus, and spends time at the Pride Center of New Jersey in Highland Park, NJ, where he is on the Board of Trustees.

more about robert a. melos


will work for food, fun or money
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topic: writing
published: 10.1.07

american gothic redux: girl talk
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topic: writing
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juli mccarthy
3.9.08 @ 9:52p

I know it's difficult to believe now, but one day you will find yourself doing something, and you will suddenly realize that normal has just somehow reasserted itself. Don't give up - you'll get there.

ammar khaleel
3.21.08 @ 11:55p

Robert, it definitely seems to me that you need to keep yourself preoccupied with something that you’re familiar with for few months, such as volunteering at a nursing home or a retirement center, until you phase out the last three years of your life and start building a new one. I’m sure going back to work and mainstream culture will help you ease your way through life and what you would consider to be normal.

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